Representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faiths handed in a statement for the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street on Monday morning, saying he was in a “unique position to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis” with the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow less than two weeks away.
The statement highlighted calls from more than 75,000 people across faith communities urging Boris Johnson to show leadership by taking action to tackle the climate emergency in a way that is fair and just for those on the frontlines of the crisis. The statement will specifically call on the Prime Minister to:
Keep the 1.5C warming limit agreement alive.
Ensure rich countries meet commitments to meet and exceed $100bn in climate finance each year to countries hardest hit by the crisis.
End support for fossil fuels everywhere.
Participants included Rt Rev Olivia Graham (Anglican Bishop of Reading), Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg (Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism), Imam Emad Choudhury (Imam at Bahu Trust), Avnish Thakrar (National Coordinator, Hindu Climate Action) and Olivia Fuchs (Eco Dharma Network).
The event was organised by CAFOD, Christian Aid, World Vision, SCIAF, Tearfund, and the Faiths 4 Climate Justice network.
On Monday 18th October 10.00 BST representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu groups will hand in a statement for the Prime Minister at No.10 Downing Street telling the Prime Minister he has a “unique position to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis” with the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow less than two weeks away.
The statement will specifically call on the Prime Minister to: ● Keep 1.5C warming limit agreement alive ● Ensure rich countries meet commitments to meet and exceed $100bn in climate finance each year to countries hardest hit by the crisis ● End further support for fossil fuels everywhere
The five faith leaders who will take part in the hand in are: ● Rt Rev Olivia Graham – Bishop of Reading ● Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg – Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism ● Imam Emad Choudhury – Imam at Bahu Trust ● Avnish Thakrar – National Coordinator, Hindu Climate Action ● Olivia Fuchs – Eco Dharma Network.
The moment is being organised by the aid agencies CAFOD, Christian Aid, World Vision, SCIAF, Tearfund, and the Faith for the Climate network.
Dr Shanon Shah, Director of Faith for the Climate said:
“We are incredibly proud of the people of diverse religions in the UK and around the world who have come together with a single message to the leaders who will represent us at COP26: destroying the planet is against our religions. We’ve demonstrated that for people of faith, prayers, reflections and meditations are necessary but not enough. We need urgent and decisive action to address this climate crisis which most severely affects the people who have done the least to cause it.”
Liam Finn, Campaigns Manager at CAFOD, said:
“We’d like to thank the thousands of Catholics and people from across faith communities who’ve sent an unequivocal message to Boris Johnson that he has to show leadership at the COP. The fight to tackle the climate emergency won’t end in Glasgow, but the COP is a vital moment for us to get on track to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ and prevent our sisters and brothers in vulnerable communities facing even more catastrophic consequences for a crisis they’ve done least to cause.
“That’s why the Prime Minister has to make sure the people living in communities on the frontlines of the crisis are put at the heart of COP26, rather than being treated as an afterthought by decision-makers, as Pope Francis warns is too often the case.”
Little Amal, a 3.5m puppet of a refugee girl, is walking from the border of Turkey / Syria to Manchester, 8000km, in search of her mother. On her journey she will visit Westminster Cathedral on Monday 25th October at 2.00pm where she will be welcomed on the steps by Cardinal Vincent and invited to join the congregation gathered inside.
Amal has already visited Pope Francis in Rome and will be welcomed to St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on Saturday 23rd October, among a number of other cultural and religious landmarks in the UK who are preparing to host her.
You are invited to join Cardinal Vincent for this Welcome Liturgy from the Catholic community and significant event showing solidarity with those who make difficult and dangerous journeys to reach safety and sanctuary in this country.
We hope people of all nationalities from around the Diocese will be there to welcome Amal. It is during half term week, which provides an opportunity for families to come together.
Amal is celebrating her 10th birthday the day beforehand, on 24th October, so we will also be wishing her a happy birthday as part of the service.
On the 1st October, beginning of the month of the Rosary and towards the end of the Season of Creation, a group of Laudato Si’ Animators gathered outside Westminster Cathedral before and after the 12.30 Mass.
The purpose was to pray and distribute prayer cards with artist Helen Elwes’ “Mother of Mercy” painting. Thanks to the efforts of Helen and Sr Zoe Leadbetter and the help of various benefactors a big number of these cards has been printed. The hope is that the distribution of this image will help stimulate our Catholic imagination and prayer for our wounded earth. The painting shows Mary, the Mother of Mercy, holding her mantle over all creation, including animals that have become extinct. In the background there are forest fires showing the damage we are doing to the earth. Leaflets about the climate and ecological emergency and the 40 days of prayer before the launching of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (14th November 2021) were also handed out.
Helen Elwes writes
As an artist I have tried to express my grief for what we are doing to our precious planet in the language I know best – in my painting ‘Mother of Mercy’. It is a contemporary image of the ‘Madonna della Misericordia’ set in a landscape destroyed by fire with the burning rainforest in the distance.
Mary kneels with her blue cloak outstretched around the tree of life, protecting praying figures and endangered animals who take refuge beneath it.
Above her head are the words : ‘Mother of Mercy – Pray For Us’
I have painted it as a modern Icon to inspire prayer but have made it in the form of a banner to bring it out into the world as I feel this message is so urgent. It is a response to the climate and ecological emergency the world is now facing and inspired by Pope Francis’ powerful and visionary call to action in Laudato Si’.
I recently read that wealth is like the suspension on an expensive car. When you have it, you don’t notice what a good job it is doing smoothing you over rough patches. If you don’t have it, you feel every bump and pothole.
Climate change is going to bring a lot more potholes – literally as well as metaphorically. Devastating weather events are already making areas of the world – most often in the Global South – almost uninhabitable. CAFOD and other aid organisations are right to point out that climate breakdown is a matter of justice – with the poor who have done the least to contribute to it, being the most affected by it.
Whilst the UK is expected to see more extreme weather events, such as heat waves and flooding, our climate will, at least in the short term, remain hospitable. But there is still a risk that the poorest people in our own society, and those with the least power, will be badly affected.Those already living in poor accommodation, or indeed, without any shelter at all, will be worst affected by heavy rain and heatwaves.
“People who live in poorly constructed homes in ‘urban heat islands’ (where built environments retain heat), work in hot conditions, suffer ill health, are older or very young, receive low incomes and/or are disconnected from social networks are more likely to be vulnerable to high temperatures.”
The Greater London Authority commissioned Bloomberg Associates to create a Climate Risk Map, where as well as physical variables (likelihood of flooding, areas of high pollution, ‘heat islands’) social variables were used – including the percentage of income-deprived families and of social housing tenants, as well as the proportion who do not have proficiency in English.
The research states:
“Poverty is an important determinant of how well people can prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate-related events. People on low incomes are more likely to have a lower adaptive capacity to heatwaves because they lack both the resources to act and the power to make changes. Additionally, low income households are less likely to have the capacity to fully prepare for floods (through insurance and property level measures). They are also more likely to be displaced as a result of flooding.”
Climate injustice is a UK issue as well as a serious global issue.
As the recent joint statement from Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said:
“We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates every person in God’s image, but also hears the cry of people who are poor. Accordingly, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice.”
Wealthy countries – and the wealthiest people in those countries, must take the lead in moving away from fossil fuels, to limit climate change, and urgently. But to meet the target of net zero carbon emissions, changes to our lifestyle and economy must be made across the whole of society.
And this is where the bumps along the way – for example, while we move away from gas boilers, petrol and diesel cars, and the consumption of large amounts of cheap meat – will be felt by the most vulnerable.
It is important that those of us who are working in social justice are aware of this, and that we raise awareness of these issues among the general public, and in conversations with those we serve – as well as in our advocacy and campaigning work. Our Road to Resilience Programme aims to help people become able to cope with changing events and crises, including climactic events.
Trying to achieve net zero – which after all, seems to be restricting people’s access to necessary energy and transport,- and bring people out of poverty can seem like an impossible task. And if we attempt to do it whilst carrying on with business as usual, it probably is.
But there are new ways of thinking that could help policy makers in this task.
Raworth argues that the purpose of economics needs to urgently move away from unlimited Growth and towards keeping all humans and the planet in a “safe space”. As illustrated by the doughnut shape:
The Safe Space of the doughnut is bounded inside by a Social Foundation, where a just distribution of wealth and power ensures that all people have the means to live fulfilled lives, free from poverty and fear. Among these are the five priorities of Caritas Westminster: Food, Shelter, Financial Resilience, Dignified Work and Social Inclusion.
The outside of the doughnut is bounded by the Ecological Ceiling, restricting human actions which cause damage to the planet – which is put in its correct place as the source of all wealth and wellbeing.
As we end this year’s Season of Creation and approach COP26, the international meeting on Climate Change taking place in Glasgow from 31st October, it is a good time to think about how we can respond as individuals, as parishes and schools, as a diocese, and as a country.
But we need every household, business and community space across the country to become Carbon Neutral. With the right policy changes by Government this can be done.
For it to be done justly, it must include efforts to smooth the way for the most vulnerable in society, to ensure that neither climate change, nor our efforts to prevent it, create more hardship and injustice.
Ellen Teague of the Columban JPIC Team spoke at Masses on 2nd/3rd October 2021 in Hanwell parish, West London, just before the Feast of St. Francis on 4th October. Her talk marked the end of the Season of Creation and suggested ways to continue parish work on climate change and “ecological conversion”.
May the Lord bless us all the days of our life, says today’s psalm. And not just our lives but the lives of our children’s children. These wonderful words written nearly 3,000 years ago inspire my work on Justice, Peace, Ecology issues for the Columban missionaries. Part of this will be representing them at the international UN climate summit in Glasgow in November – the COP26 that you are seeing in the media.
Pope Francis said this week, “every human being has a right to a healthy environment”. He was referring to protecting Planet Earth, our common home, from climate change. But what has prompted my own mission to care for creation?
As a lay missionary in Northern Nigeria in the early 1980s I saw farmers from Niger moving south to work because their farms in Niger had become desertified and prone to soil erosion. Back in Britain, I worked for CAFOD and helped collect funds for the great Ethiopia famine appeal of 1984. TV pictures showed poor people queuing for food aid amidst a dusty, oppressively hot environment. In the late 1980s I visited Sudan and will never forget witnessing a million people in a refugee camp near the city of Juba, displaced from their homes by drought, exacerbated by conflict, and sitting in a treeless, sun-baked plain completely reliant on humanitarian aid. I was awakened to what several popes have called an “ecological conversion”.
By the 1990s the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was proving that the stability of the world’s climate was being undermined by humanity dumping greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Our planet was heating. Why? Energy and transport reliant on fossil fuels, extractive industries tearing up land to access minerals, industrial agriculture were all responsible, alongside raised standards of living in affluent countries such as ours which have literally devoured Earth’s natural resources. Structural issues have include third world debt which forced countries in the global south to destroy their rainforests and export the timber.
The saddest aspect has been that the weakest communities in the poorest countries, who have done least to cause global warming, have been worst affected. In 2007 I observed the Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines hold a climate conference attended by over 2000 people – representation from every parish – because, with over half the parishes at or below sea level, they wanted to prepare for flooding caused by inundation from the rising ocean and for more severe weather. And they have had it in recent times. Fr. Sean McDonagh was the keynote speaker. The Filipino bishops said 20 years ago that, “the destruction of creation is sinful and contrary to the teachings of our faith.”
Today’s readings have a strong focus on marriage, family bonds and the rights of children but these relationships are sorely tested by the climate crisis which has torn families and communities apart. Two million people – mostly in the global south – have died as a result of a five-fold increase in weather-related disasters in our lifetimes. Climate refugees could reach 200 million by 2050. Humanity is increasingly on the move and the stability that families and communities need is in jeopardy. The time to act is now.
In 2015 Pope Francis produced his acclaimed environment encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ which is part of the teaching of the Church. It calls on Catholics and all people to heed the warnings of climate experts. “The climate is a good that must be protected” he said and asked us “to hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”. Since then, we have seen increased wild fires, flooding and species extinction around the globe. The climate crisis cannot be ignored anymore, even by those of us not yet feeling the worst impacts.
There is much we can all do.
Tomorrow’s Feast of St. Francis reminds us to appreciate God’s beautiful creation – fresh air, clean water, nutritious food, green spaces, our animal companions. Reflect on your own way of life: avoid waste – especially food waste – conserve water and energy and protect local trees and hedgerows. Share wealth with the victims of climate change.
Hanwell is one of thousands of parishes of all Christian denominations which have celebrated the Season of Creation over the past month. And today, you can support the Climate Appeal of CAFOD. I have a table of resources at the back of the church for finding out more about engagement with COP26. Support your excellent parish Justice and Peace Group, which has raised awareness for many years. Consider becoming a Livesimply parish. And look out for refugees in Ealing and support them – for numbers will grow as people flee climate disasters. Support Westminster Diocese efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Faith groups are divesting from fossil fuels, such as the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in this parish.
Outside of your beautiful parish, in the local community, what about engaging with Hanwell Nature which has campaigned to protect the site of Warren Farm for its biodiversity. Did you know it has the only breeding skylark birds in Ealing? These beautiful birds are being conserved and are a blessing in our lives and the lives of our children’s children.
You can be involved nationally and internationally too. Christians are involved with climate justice because climate change affects most heavily communities least able to deal with it and on countries with low greenhouse emission rates, such as Bangladesh and Fiji. We should listen to our young people who demand a future of peace, green jobs and renewable energy. Young Christians have been walking from Cornwall to COP26 in Glasgow since June – a pilgrimage to raise awareness, pray with local churches, and eventually lobby world leaders converging on the city. They have reached Manchester this weekend.
Another aspect is that we owe respect to the rest of the natural world. Today’s first reading from Genesis speaks of God creating the animals and birds. God sees creation as very good. ‘Laudato Si’ presents a strong critique of modern consumerism which plunders and destroys the natural world. We need soil, trees, rivers and rainfall in order to survive and the Church is speaking out about this louder than it has ever done.
Pope Francis – a global moral beacon – will be speaking in Glasgow to push for urgent action on climate change. The Columbans are supporting him there and organising a 24-hour vigil on 6th-7th November in liaison with other Catholic groups such as Justice and Peace Scotland and the Jesuits in Scotland. CAFOD is organising events in Glasgow and London that same weekend.
You are invited to sign the ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’ Petition. Our Columbans UK website, Facebook and Twitter are updated daily with news of the Catholic response to justice, peace and ecology issues. Details in our latest newsletter at the back. We will help you play your part in lobbying for a successful UN climate summit in November.
Ordinary people like you and me can make a huge difference. At the very least we can identify the habits that have harmed our environment globally and realign as individuals and community to what will keep our society and our environment healthy. This gives everybody hope.
May the Lord indeed bless us all the days of our lives as we follow the Church in promoting justice, peace and “ecological conversion”.
A prayer vigil was held at the Home Office at noon on 5th October, in remembrance of the many refugees and migrants who have drowned in the Channel and in support of those forced to attempt the perilous crossing to England. Campaigners called for safe legal routes for refugees forced to to flee their countries to apply for asylum.
Tributes were also given to the mostly unpaid volunteer Royal National Lifeboat Institution crews, who selflessly serve to rescue all who need their help at sea. Barbara Kentish organised this moving event.
It was a grey drizzly day with the sun peeking out occasionally as Home Office staff came and went. The participants conveyed a sense of joy, respect, and purpose as they prayed and sang hymns together. Moving testimonies were read from the crew members of RNLI of their encounters with exhausted, desperate individuals trying to navigate the Channel’s shipping lanes in flimsy inflatable dinghies, ill-equipped to deal with the challenge. Lifeboat crews are committed to saving lives no matter who is at risk, putting politics aside.
There were placards, a baby and a “birthday girl” who had ridden her bike for more than an hour to join the group! Ann Jones, who volunteers at the Catholic Worker and Caritas, was 80 years old that morning and she said there was no better way to start her birthday! And she brought homemade brownies to share!
Thomas Caddick, from Catholic Worker, said he participated in the Home Office action, because he opposes the extreme threat and devastation deportation poses to extremely vulnerable people.
Brother Johannes Maertens, shared that the focus isn’t what we accomplished, it was being present in prayer for people. “We are reminding ourselves and others that refugees are in danger because of the policies that are made in this building…we need to pray for victims who are affected by these policies as well as the people who make the policies in this country…trying to grow together for a better humanity, to be more humane…to be a sign for people here, to be present for all to see, to stand in front of God to testify for humanity…”
Barbara’s prayer vigil was an inspiring blend of reality and hope, of justice and peace. Ben Beno’s poem will have the last word…
A refugee, a refugee, Lord, into you I flee. A refugee, a refugee, O Lord, my refuge be.
Bend down and hear. my prayer. Come near. Save and deliver me. My rock and wall, a stronghold tall, my fortress you will be.
A refugee, a refugee, Lord, into you I flee. A refugee, a refugee, O Lord, my refuge be.
Then stay the hand of those who plan tp grasp and wreck and crush. Come rescue me, Come set me free.
We would particularly like to invite people to participate in the gathering to welcome Little Amal to Westminster Cathedral (on Monday 25th October, 2-3pm) where we will be praying for all refugees, especially unaccompanied children who are making their way towards this country.
There is also a Candle-lit Procession (Monday 1st November, 6pm) and Day of Global Action Climate Rally (6th November, 11am), both during COP26, where we have one last chance to influence our politicians and business leaders during this important decision-making moment for the future of our planet.
See the newsletter for all the details about these events and many more ways to contribute to peace and justice activity in the Diocese.
The World Day for Migrants and Refugees was marked on Dover Seafront by Bishop Paul McAleenan and a gathering of supporters on Saturday 25th September at midday.
Barbara Kentish, Refugee and Migrants lead for the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, gave a reflection at the service and is campaigning against the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making its way through Parliament. Barbara writes:
Now, more than ever, we call on our faith to resist the draconian immigration law currently being discussed in Parliament. The example of migrants’ faith is so inspiring, as is the groundswell of public goodwill, such as we see from the RNLI. Many Councils are also agreeing to take families. Our country can be so much better than the spirit of the Nationality and Borders Bill demonstrates.
Ben Bano, from Seeking Sanctuary, also attended the service and writes:
The well known hymn ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ is frequently associated with military parades and services, but it was a particularly apt choice when we gathered on the Dover seafront for a service on the eve of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees which included a blessing of the sea led by the local parish priest Fr Jeff Cridland.
As we looked out to the sea, it was an opportunity for the 25 people gathered from local churches and faith communities to remember the dangers of the English Channel for migrants and their families in their desperate searches for sanctuary.
The service which was organised by ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ was led by Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead Bishop of the Catholic Church in England and Wales for migrants and refugees, who reminded us of the Christian duty to provide a humane and welcoming attitude to those who attempt to reach our shores having suffered poverty violence and persecution.
Alongside the memorial to migrants who have lost their lives seeking safety we remembered the powerful words of Pope Francis, ‘Every migrant has a name, a face and a story’.
‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations via partnerships with experienced aid workers. Our special concern is for the 2000 or so exiles who are stuck in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK.
They need food, water, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several organisations, including two Calais warehouses which also supply needs further afield. Contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802 for ways to help.
In just a few days, the government is expected to make the biggest overnight cut to social security in the last 70 years when they cut Universal Credit by £20 a week on 6th October.
Caritas Westminster has joined with over a thousand church leaders to write to the Prime Minister and ask him to think again about taking away £1,040 a year from low income families. The letter, coordinated by Church Action on Poverty and Christians Against Poverty, calls for the Government to “choose to build a just and compassionate social security system that our whole society can have confidence in.”
Emergency food relief projects in the Diocese of Westminster have shared their concerns about the cut with Caritas Westminster. One volunteer from a North London Parish food bank told us
“We have been supporting hundreds of people weekly throughout the pandemic and now that we are emerging from it we do need to give people a chance to get their lives back on track and not plunge them into further debt … The effect of cutting universal credit at a time where people are trying to get out of poverty is extremely damaging and will have a knock on effect on the ability for individuals and families to get through the autumn and winter months.”
At this food bank volunteers have seen huge increases in demand over the last 18 months. A recent survey of a 100 of their clients found only 1 person was not in receipt of Universal Credit, legacy benefits or state pension. Even before the cut comes in, these clients are unable to get by on the state support they receive and have to turn to food banks for emergency help. The cut will only push them further into poverty and insecurity.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Across the Diocese of Westminster, we see high levels of food insecurity and parish and school food relief projects working hard to ensure no one goes hungry. Between April – June 2021 more than 50,000 meals and food parcels were distributed by just 35 parishes and schools. Already, 43% of these food relief projects are reporting low income as one of the top issues affecting those they serve. A further reduction in income will only serve to make this need worse.
As the cut comes closer we face the perfect storm with the furlough scheme ending, energy prices rising, a shortage of hauliers affecting our food supply, and an upcoming increase to National Insurance. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicts that with the cut to Universal Credit and the rising cost of living the average low income family will soon be £1,750 worse off a year.
As another volunteer running a parish food bank in London said:
“What has been more worrying in the last few weeks, is that we have seen a 30% increase in demand for food, with more of our clients losing their jobs, as furlough comes to an end. The withdrawal of the £20 universal credit payment next month will have a dramatic impact on the families that we serve and I worry we will see yet another spike in the demand for food in the coming weeks.”
Caritas Westminster has been encouraging people to write to their MPs and ask them to stop the cut to Universal Credit and keep the lifeline it provides. Please join us by using our template letter to make sure your MP knows what this cut will do to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, and urge them to take action to stop it.
If you want to know more about food relief in the Diocese of Westminster, and get further involved in food resilience work, join our Network for people involved in food relief projects. Contact the Caritas Food Collective
You may also be interested in Firm Foundations, our project aimed at increasing financial resilience.